It’s been such a long time since blogging. How do you find time in the midst of real changes that have happened consistently over the past few months; both personally and in the church? Thank God for His wisdom during this season and for His wonderful grace. It amazes me how God is our provider, our redeemer, our ever-present help in time of need.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the church and the gifts God grants through the Holy Spirit to her. So I thought I’d take some time to write what has been on my mind and share with you God’s intention for His gifts.
Often in our minds we have a picture of what church should look like, sound like, and even feel like. But in my experience of life, church is often formulated on the opinions of man versus what God desires. Think about it. There are some who claim that all forms of apostolic gifts (manifestation of gifts from the Holy Spirit such as tongues, prophecy, discernment of spirits, healing, interpretation of tongues, etc) ceased in the first century church with the passing of the apostles. They don’t trust the unknown so therefore it can’t be from God. There are some who claim that all these forms of apostolic gifts are still evident and available and that the church is not full of the Spirit if these gifts don’t prove evident each Sunday in a worship service. They overly trust themselves and exert that those not having such gifts are not filled with the Holy Spirit and do not have proper faith.
I, like the apostle Paul, believe that God is in the business of designing His church to meet the needs of the community in which He places it. It would be unfair for me to say that either extreme is what God desires for LHH. Instead, I have come to realize through experience and the study of God’s Word that the manifestation of gifts are not for man’s benefit, but so that God can use these gifts to bring glory to His name and draw people to Him.
1 Corinthians 12 -14 give great evidence for what God desires of His Church. Paul, inspired by God, wrote in chapter 12 verses 4 – 7, 10, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as He determines.”
He then goes on and discusses the body – how it is made up of many parts – yet they work together for the full functioning of the body. He concludes his thought on the body with verses 27 – 31, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles (those who walked with Jesus and witnessed His ministry and resurrection), second prophets (those who speak truthfully what God desires to be heard at that time), third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.” It’s important to know that Paul was dealing with a church that was claiming to its members that some gifts were more important than others – that these gifts created positions of power and self-advantage; particularly that tongues outshines them all. So he clarifies, “You think tongues is the most important? Well, you’re wrong! Look where it falls in the list of importance.”
He goes on to address in chapter 13 that no matter what gifts persons have been given (from the gift of the “little toe” to the gift of the “brain” – insignificant to significant), if love is not evident, the gifts are futile and useless. In fact he said, that where evidence of the gifts is ringing true, God can remove and still them. But he then concluded that even though the manifestation gifts may cease in man’s faith experience, faith, hope, and love will not. He said, “And now these three remain (and will always remain – my words): faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Finally, he says, “If you really want any of the spiritual gifts, if you eagerly desire a gift, desire the gift of prophecy – IT RANKS SECOND. This is the gift that God can use for the edification and building up of His Church because it will be speaking the truth of God to those who need to hear it.” In verse 24 he summarizes why this gift is so important, “But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!'”
So often people think of prophecy as a word from God that speaks of future events. And this is true. The Bible is full of events that did happen and will happen. Yet, in humility, God can use anyone at any time to state what needs to be stated to bring about the change that He is desiring in a person’s life or in the life of the church. Where prophecy goes awry is when self is involved – self-glorification, pride, or a sense of “Will this benefit me?” Prophecy is the Word of God going forth to bring about conviction, encouragement, and change.
As a Church, we need to be open to God’s leading. We need to be open to what God desires to be lived out in us and through us. We are to pray for one another and encourage one another to persevere in the faith. After all, it’s all about His Kingdom anyway. But though I desire gifts that draw and attract people to me because of what my gift has to offer, I must be sure to take myself out of the picture so that I truly become the vessel God wants me to be. I encourage you that if the Holy Spirit blesses you with a gift as He has determined to give it, feel blessed. But beware, your blessing is only PART of the Body so allow it to function in its role within the Body. Then you will truly be fulfilling your destiny in God.